Release Date: Feb 9, 2010
Record label: Carpark
Genre(s): Indie, Electronic, Alternative, Experimental
The first of two full-lengths to be released this year by South Carolina’s laptop symphonist Toro Y Moi, Causers of This is a remarkably confident suite of pop gems. Over gelatinous rhythms, washed-out synths and pointillist guitars, Chaz Bundick’s dream-time vocals suggest Panda Bear gone R&B. Closing with a bit of gaudy, high ’80s bubblegum, Causers of This is a bold introduction to a promising newcomer.
South Carolina: a perma-tanned paradise along the USA’s East Coast known for grabbing more sun than you could shake a Cornetto at. This, and soon-to-be famous for being the epicentre of a burgeoning musical movement, will make you want to flick a ‘V’ at spring cleaning, don some sunglasses and head to your nearest patch of sand.In case you didn’t receive the memo, blog or smoke signals, the past year was not a lame duck for musical innovation. Old mother music actually gave miraculous birth to a blissfully laidback ‘new’ genre which is the proverbial fat kid at a buffet, feasting on all manner of influences and still wanting more.
About six months removed from the summer of chillwave, Toro Y Moi's debut LP is being released in the dead of winter. Which is kind of great, if only because it prohibits us from falling back on categorizing Chaz Bundick's sound as "beach music." After all, chillwave was never really about the beach. Even if the springy sounds of Neon Indian and Washed Out often felt coastal and waterlogged, the style was always more about texture and atmosphere than it was about place.
When you willingly write and record music that belongs to a genre known as “chillwave," you’re all but ensuring that your music will have a short shelf-life. In the dead of winter, the washed-out, summertime beach jams of Neon Indian and, well, Washed Out sound significantly less compelling -- especially as people have unraveled the relatively lazy sampling that transformed long-forgotten italo-disco tracks by the likes of Gary Low and Pineapples into, respectively, “Feel It All Around” and “Psychic Chasms.” And of course, there’s the name itself. Glo-fi, chillwave -- whatever you’d like to call it -- has become so closely tied to the summer of 2009 that it’s nearly impossible to think of it as anything but ephemera.
Toro y Moi (aka Chaz Bundick, who began making bedroom recordings under that name in 2001) was slated to release his first two albums in 2010, and Causers of This is the first of them. Causers of This sounds like a dance-pop mixtape plunged underwater -- it's all smeary synthesizers, chopped-up dance beats, and washes of reverb. In other words, it's a sound similar to that of Neon Indian or Washed Out (which makes sense, seeing how Washed Out's Ernest Greene and Bundick were friends well before this album came out).
I imagine the advent of glo-fi (or chillwave, or whatever you want to call it) as a golden age for car commercials. I say that with no snark intended; god knows I enjoy Neon Indian’s “Deadbeat Summer,” but I can’t hear it without conjuring up an aerial shot of stylish twenty-somethings cruising down an oceanside road, laughing for absolutely no reason. I only hope Miracle Whip doesn’t catch on and ruin this for everybody by playing Washed Out behind one of their baffling, Reality Bites-esque sandwich-party ads.
When 'Blessa' billows in on a cloud of reverb and warped tiki ambience it's tempting to jump to the conclusion that Toro y Moi are peddling yet another simplification of the unstable beachside bliss Animal Collective have made their own – especially given that on this song, sole member Chaz Bundick's vocal is a DEAD RINGER for the disconnected warble of Panda Bear. This smartarsed supposition is scuppered, however, the moment the beats make their entrance and the song gathers itself into a fairly tidy lump in the foreground of one's brain. For while Bundick is undoubtedly indebted to the AC crew, on the evidence of this release he owes as much to Flying Lotus, J Dilla, Daft Punk and even Nineties girl group SWV, whose dreamy 'Right Here' – specifically the single mix which tore great fluffy chunks out of Michael Jackson's 'Human Nature' – is evoked during the lazy piano-led R&B of 'Imprint After'.
In his humble home studio, producer/musician Toro Y Moi complicates his ultimately easygoing lo-fi psyche-pop with glitzy nuances and meandering, sampled swells of sound. Causers of This isn’t going to be entirely unfamiliar to those of us who’ve been finding comfort in Washed Out, Memory Tapes, etc., as well as in Koushik’s pleasant montages of crackling soul pieces—lifted from dusty records—and live, reverb-heavy vocals. And aside from the indirect influence that these celebrators of samplers and vintage equipment have on Toro Y Moi’s creative direction, his debut LP is strewn with disco, ‘80s synth/radio pop, and chopped-up hip hop that sound as if they’re being played back on a weathered cassette.
A few months ago I read an interview with Bradford Cox in which the Deerhunter ringleader/Atlas Sound mastermind playfully sounded off on glo-fi, and what he suggested was a crown stolen from him. Whether he’s serious or not, there’s a solid case lurking behind his claim for birthright. Not only was Atlas Sound’s 2008 debut a haze-riddled bedroom record of groundbreaking proportions, it even featured a song entitled Ready, Set, Glow! I’d take sides but the point is already moot.
Entertaining, sunny-side-up fare, despite its obvious debt to the likes of J Dilla. Mike Diver 2010 While wholly generic, to the position of near-pastiche at times, the debut long-player from Toro Y Moi – aka South Carolina’s Chaz Bundick – is nevertheless engrossing and entertaining, lifting as it does from sources as exquisite as the squelch-and-fizz beatscapes of J Dilla and the blogosphere-borne chillwave sounds of summer 2009. If the likes of Memory Tapes and Washed Out have been mainstays on your stereo since the sun slipped behind the choking cloud of continuing winter, Causers of This is a certainty to brighten your own horizons – even if those outside retain their greyness.